Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Raabe and the Palast Orchester specialize in recreating the sound and atmosphere of 1920s and '30s Berlin. Dressed in a crisp tuxedo with his hair slicked back, Raabe evokes the style and sophistication of Fred Astaire. His clear, falsetto-like voice is reminiscent of Rudy Vallee, and his sly, biting wit and comic delivery are similar to that of Noël Coward. Add in the charming and succinct musical abilities of Cole Porter and a German accent, and you have Max Raabe.
The songs Raabe and the Palast Orchester performed featured many German tunes you may not know along with several from the Great American Songbook, including such gems as "Singin' in the Rain," "I Won't Dance," and "Night and Day." Some of the numbers were sung in English, though the majority were performed in German. However, no matter what language they were sung in, they were simply magical and reminded me of a simpler time when men and women dressed up in their best attire for an evening out and when big bands and cocktails were the epitome of sophistication.
The numbers the group performed in Scottsdale were songs of love and loss with some set to a rumba or waltz, with a German novelty number and humorous interludes from the orchestra interspersed throughout to provide plenty of variety in the concert. Raabe gave us a beautiful version of "Cheek to Cheek" that featured solos from a trio of violins and then followed it with a German comic song called "Lulu Is Dancing Over There." Between each number Raabe spoke to the audience to introduce the next song and always mentioned the composers and the year the song was written. His brief introductions were infused with the driest of wit and a mischievous look. For example, when speaking about a German waltz he said, with perfect comic timing, "Not as elegant as a waltz from Vienna, but much louder."
The 12-piece orchestra was exceptional with just about every member playing multiple instruments. They, like Raabe, created a playful atmosphere interjecting comical gestures or looks and also, during one number, when they all became a bell orchestra there was one member who kept ringing his bell even when it wasn't his turn. Things like that ensured there were moments of humor within the elegance of the music, the beauty of the singing, and the superb orchestral contributions. Some other highlights of the evening included a biting "Mack the Knife," a rousing "Moon of Alabama," a sunny "Happy Days Are Here Again," and a charming "Dream a Little Dream" that ended the evening on a high note.
The German-based Raabe and the Palast Orchester have toured the United States before and the Scottsdale stop was one on a brief two-week tour of a few western U.S. cities that included three stops in Arizona.
Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester performed March 16, 2019, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Information for future performance dates of this play can be found at www.palast-orchester.de/en. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.